A friend shared with me a story in which a rabbi was giving a blessing to the bar mitzvah boy in front of the congregation. The senior rabbi gave the child two gifts: a siddur and an umbrella. An assistant rabbi looked at the senior rabbi with confusion. “Why the umbrella?” The senior rabbi looked at the assistant rabbi with a perceptive look, “At least I know the umbrella will get opened!”
I am floored by the punchline. While it offers intended humor, embedded is a real challenge to all Jewish professionals and adults raising Jewish children. How do we create spiritual environments in which children that grow into teens that mature into adults, look at the siddur and feel a sense of ownership? Look at the Shabbat candlesticks or kiddush cup and use them on a regular basis? The person that read this story took it upon herself to organize a “Shabbat HaMitriyah”—an “Umbrella Shabbat” in which she wanted her children to celebrate the opening of their siddurim, a push against the ”truths” represented in the story. And this same person is celebrating her grandchild’s bnai mitzvah this Shabbat: in this case, the rabbi in the story was proven wrong.
And yet, I wonder about the gifts we present each Shabbat. Do they grow dust, sitting on shelves or hidden in basements? Are we doing enough to instill commitment, attachment and meaning in our rituals so that the gifts we offer are ones cherished beyond the day they are taken out of the wrapping paper?
It is a beautiful charge. One day, may we all look at the punchline in the story with confusion. Umbrellas break. One gust of wind and the umbrella is flying down the street. Opening a siddur and connecting to the thousands of years of Jewish history that came before us, engaging in our relationship with God, praying with other Jews sitting by our side, wrestling with questions, and singing with pride…these are lessons and values that are meant to last a lifetime.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.